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Row crops survive a very rainy June
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rainfall up to three times the normal amount across the state in June made for soggy conditions, but the state's row crops still have the potential for a good yield.
Charles Wax, state climatologist at Mississippi State University, said Mississippi averaged 9.83 inches of rain statewide in June, a new record that beat the 9.8 inches set in 1989. Normal rainfall for the state is about 7 inches in June.
"That's two to three times the normal amount across the state," Wax said. "There was some wide variation, but for the most part, there's not a single place that had below normal precipitation."
In the Delta, 10.17 inches of rain fell in 14 days in Moorehead, where normal is 3.43 inches. Lexington, in central Mississippi, got 11.64 inches of rain in 17 days. Normal is 3.8 inches. Moving south, Poplarville received 13.82 inches of rain in 19 days, compared to a normal rainfall of 4.94 inches. In the east, MSU set a new rainfall record for the month with 10.49 inches in 18 days. The old record of 10.03 inches was set in 1947. Normal for the area is 3.52 inches.
"We have stalled fronts pulling moisture from the Gulf and dumping it across the state," Wax said. "The state had a front somewhere every day in June. That's pretty unusual in the South."
Farmers like rain, but there can be too much of a good thing.
Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist, said flash flooding has been a problem in places, and low-lying areas are likely to see some drowned plants, but overall the crop is okay.
"We're still early in the season when cotton has a low water requirement. It's better to have less moisture so we can have good root growth," Barber said. "But since the rains really didn't start until June, we had enough of a dry season to establish a good root system in most areas."
Barber's two biggest worries now are weeds and nitrogen loss.
"A lot of farmers missed their second application of herbicide because of rain, and a majority did not have a pre-emergence herbicide down," Barber said. "Those fields have probably been overtaken with weeds."
All the rain can cause nitrogen loss through leaching -- washing away -- or denitrification, a chemical process that makes the nitrogen unusable by plants.
Erick Larson, Extension grain agronomist, said nitrogen loss is also a concern with corn, but because saturated conditions occurred relatively late in the growing season, most yield losses will be small.
"Corn is getting mature enough that it can compensate for some stress at this point in its life cycle," Larson said.
Wet conditions promote disease development, and Larson said he's seeing some Southern and Northern corn leaf blight, which cause spots of leaf tissue to die prematurely.
"That will limit energy production, which will reduce yield potential," Larson said. "The farther along the crop is, the less it will reduce yield potential. Right now, most of our crop is about 20 to 30 days away from physiological maturity, which is when the yield will be determined."
Alan Blaine, Extension soybean specialist, said the portion of the state's soybeans that were planted early fared better than younger plants. Repeated rainfall the last part of June primarily prevented spraying and hampered final planting over the entire state.
"I still have high hopes. The crop where the water is receding is still good," Blaine said. "Our salvation is that it's an older crop, and the bigger it is, the more it can withstand."
Blaine said one-third to half of the state's crop was less than three weeks from physiological maturity by the end of June.
"There's a lot of concern about disease, but if the sun comes out and it dries off and warms up, the impact of disease can be minimal," Blaine said.
Nathan Buehring is on the Extension team working with rice. He said the rain has cut pumping costs for rice producers and hasn't significantly affected the crop.
"Some of the rice fields are flooded above the levees. The rains and excessive water have hampered fertilizer and pesticide applications, especially in the later-planted rice crop," Buehring said. "Producers will need to check for any blown levees or gates once the excessive water goes down, especially on the lighter soils."
Once the soil dries some, rice producers will join the rest of the state's producers in playing catch-up on management and field work postponed by the rain.